Hundreds of Iraqis protested on Sunday in central Baghdad to demand that authorities hold accountable the killers of dozens of activists associated with a long-running protest movement.
Assassinations, attempted murders and abductions have targeted more than 70 activists since a pro-democracy protest movement erupted against government corruption and incompetence in 2019.
“We’re here to say that we want to end impunity in Iraq,” Hussein Al-Faili, an 18-year old student, told our reporters from Firdous Square, a key protest site.
“We want freedom! This revolution started because of this and we won’t stop until we win.”
Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi on Friday announced the arrest of four suspects in the point-blank shooting of prominent academic and government adviser Hisham al-Hashemi a year ago.
Dozens also turned out in Nasiriyah, a rebellious Shi’a city in southern Iraq where tensions have been running high following a hospital fire that killed at least 60 people on Monday.
Iraqi state television broadcast brief clips late Friday of the alleged confession of Ahmed al-Kenani, a 36-year-old police lieutenant, who said he had used a pistol to murder Hashemi.
A security source told our reporters Kenani was affiliated with Kataeb Hezbollah, a hardline pro-Iran armed faction.
But Faili said the arrests were not enough.
“We want the big man who ordered the murder,” Faili said.
The boisterous crowd at Firdous Square listened to a young man sing a melancholic medley.
That was followed by a recording of a poem by iconic young activist Safaa Saray, who died in 2019 after being struck with a tear gas canister to his head during a demonstration.
The mostly young protestors on Sunday chanted against “political parties, traitors and militias” as others tearfully remembered their assassinated comrades.
Another young woman, also a student, lambasted the presence of “militias and Iranian intrusion in Iraq”.
Iraq, still battered and impoverished after the 2003 US-led invasion and the turmoil that followed, has been a battleground for influence between arch-foes Washington and Tehran, which has backed paramilitaries and politicians.
Activist Shatha Al-Qaisi said “this campaign… seeks to gain support from all over the world to stop the bloodshed. It’s not a politicized movement”.